FlatOut Ultimate Carnage races from the Xbox 360 onto a PC near you. But does the latest instalment in the FlatOut series deliver the thrills and spills on your humble PC? We drive like the devil to find out.
Essentially, FlatOut Ultimate Carnage for the PC is the Xbox 360 version that was well-received when it released on the console last year. It is so similar, in fact, that it has been designed to run with the Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller for Windows. It also sports the ominous "Live" branding, and from the start it is obvious that this is a game designed to inhabit a chunk of cyber-space.
Essentially the game follows the FlatOut format, allowing you to race across three major categories, Derby, Race and Street, each with a number of car options, tracks and so on. You’ll start at the bottom with a basic derby wreck, winning cash along the way. You can upgrade your cars as you go, or you can simply race to get enough cash to play with the big boys at the top.
FlatOut UC delivers fantastic demolition racing at breakneck speed and right from the start it feels like a console game, which isn’t a bad thing. The key difference is support for a wide range of resolutions and aspect ratios for different PCs, and you’ll need a higher-end setup to really get the most from it. On our test laptop (Acer Aspire 8920G), it looked glorious, with no sign of frame rate problems, even when the action really got furious in multi-car pile-ups.
The soundtrack is really good too and you can change the level of music and "fx", so you can beef up the volume of the cars. The bass is fairly heavy, so put your subwoofer into it, or a decent set of headphones, and you get the most from the roar of the car’s engines.
Aside from the serious business of racing, there are plenty of laughs to be had through-out the game: nitro your car into a tree and the driver will be catapulted through the windscreen with a scream. You’ll hear a glorious ensemble of roaring engines, tyres squealing, crashing cars and screams through-out the game.
In Ultimate Carnage, of course, the real aim is to smash stuff up and the game boasts 8000 different perpetual objects, i.e., you hit them, they break, but they don’t disappear, oh no, they fly, bounce, roll, and meet you on your next lap. Swipe a log pile and on the next lap, they’ll be there to launch you off the road. Most of the environment is destructible and there are plenty of plastic chairs and tyres walls around, just waiting for you to slam into them.
Nitro plays a big part in the games and fortunately smashing into things gains you nitro, and no more so than slamming in to your opponents. Nitro yourself into a competitor and you’ll get a massive nitro boost in return, which is good economics in my book. You can stick to racing for the cash rewards, but getting stuck into some grudge battles is all part of the game.
There are a number of default players in the offline mode and the game tries to give them some personality by flashing you a brief bio of them. It is perhaps no surprise that the default "Player" is the spitting image of Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner in The Fast and the Furious) and there is a heavy dose of that street racing feel in the top category.
The game gets progressively more difficult as you unlock cars, tracks and earn money to progress. One nice element is being able to see the locked levels and cars, so you know you have something to play for. The levels do become a little familiar as you race, sometimes it will seem like you are doing the same laps over and over, especially if you don’t qualify, so there is some potential to become repetitive. The biggest prizes come with winning cups, so it is worth investing in your car to ease your progress as you go along. If you must reach the top rung as fast as possible, you can sell you car to raise more cash.
You also get a dubious replay mode, which is perhaps of limited appeal, as you’ll see your car racing from various uninspiring angles and it doesn’t seem to do any favours graphically. Your driver just sits like a lemon, an expressionless bod, occasionally twitching when you hit a pillar.
Aside from the career-type racing, FlatOut Mode, you also get Carnage Mode which contains a whole load of extra events to take part in, including some ridiculous stunts, as well as Live Mode for racing online, Single Events (which may allow you access to some things you may not have unlocked), and a Party Mode where a number of players can compete in stunts and so on for a bit of a laugh.
Online works similarly to Xbox Live and supports up to 8 players in a game, giving you races and destruction derbies as well as some of the stunts. Having played a lot of Burnout Paradise online, and spending most of the time in grudge matches against other players, it is clear that the sort of action offered by FlatOut will appeal to gamers.
There is enough in here as a single player game to keep you distracted, although the longevity could be questioned if you fail to unlock all the levels. That said, you can pick up and play FlatOut Ultimate Carnage in a spare half hour and there are plenty of elements to add variety.
It is great to see a port that looks so good and plays so well and hasn’t lost that arcade feel to it. If you don’t have a controller then the keyboard works adequately well. FlatOut Ultimate Carnage is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, guaranteeing you a great thrill ride and satisfies that desire to break stuff.